Friday, May 15, 2015

'Momentous' RoRo Ferry Decision Sees French Sailors Win Appeal

Just When You Thought it Was Safe They Wouldn't Go Back on the Water.......
Shipping News Feature

UK – FRANCE – The last time a France versus England conflict ran this long it might well have been the Hundred Year’s War. The continuing story of seafaring folk took another fresh turn today as the ex SeaFrance employee collective which helps run Eurotunnel’s MyFerryLink cross channel RoRo freight and passenger services, Société Coopérative de Production de SeaFrance S.A. (SCOP), won a stunning, last gasp victory in the UK Court of Appeal to potentially enable the service to continue.

SCOP has successfully argued that when, in 2012, the companies acquired the three ferries and related assets of the former SeaFrance operation (by then liquidated) and recommenced a ferry service on the Dover–Calais route under the MyFerryLink brand, this should not be treated as a merger under the UK merger control rules. In June 2013 the UK Competition Commission ruled such an operation as illegal and demanded the assets be sold off.

In due course the Competition Commission was replaced by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) which agreed with its predecessor’s judgement, ruling the he current level of competition on the Dover–Calais route was unsustainable and likely to leave Eurotunnel as owner of 1 of 2 competing ferry services as well as the undersea rail link. This ruling was upheld by the Competition Appeal Tribunal as we reported at the time leading to Eurotunnel’s decision to put MyFerryLink assets up for sale. This situation has now been turned on its head when, with today’s ruling by a 2 to 1 majority decision, the Court of Appeal today upheld the appeal by the SCOP.

The CMA has issued a statement saying it will study the judgment carefully and consider its next steps. No statement has yet been received from Eurotunnel management but MyFerryLink have been quick to respond describing today’s ruling as ‘a momentous victory’ and using the opportunity to take a sideswipe at both the CMA and the competition with MyFerryLink's Raphael Doutrebente/Jean-Michel Gigue commenting:

“The decision of the Court of Appeal is very comprehensive, exposing fatal flaws in the CMA's analysis. The decision represents a significant victory both for our dedicated employees and for our customers, who will continue to benefit from healthy competition on the short sea. This should now spell the end of the road for the CMA's (supported always by DFDS) attempts to suppress the MyFerryLink business, which has always sought to deliver a high quality and reliable service for its customers"

MyFerryLink has thanked all its loyal customers for their support and so it seems, for now at least, the sale of assets may be off whilst everyone concerned considers their next best move, particularly DFDS, or any similar operator, which doubtless saw MyFerryLink as dead in the water and will be now considering their own legal arguments to close the service and enable them to move into the vacuum.